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Published again

Nothing short of total Perl.com domination!

Here’s the direct link for when the main page is updated again.

categories: /work, /tech/perl, /writing
posted on Tue, 13 Dec 2011 at 13:38 | permanent link | view comments


I made the cover of Perl.com!

Here’s the direct link for when the main page is updated again.

Thanks chromatic!

categories: /tech/perl, /writing, /work
posted on Fri, 23 Sep 2011 at 12:02 | permanent link | view comments

Email win

I made myself a rule for email a couple of weeks ago:

The inbox will be smaller each time I check my mail.

I eventually agreed that the rule doesn’t apply when I’m sending a new message out; this keeps my workflow productive and simple. I’m checking email less often and my inbox is now at 16 messages. Win.

I’m not at rock bottom, because a few of the messages are important but hard to move (things that will take concerted effort over time to finish), but I’ll get there eventually.

categories: /learning, /work, /wisdom, /tech, /economics, /smarts
posted on Fri, 23 Sep 2011 at 11:58 | permanent link | view comments

Managing email

Email is a problem for me: I check it too often and do too little about it when I check it, making for an unwieldy inbox. I think I’ve come up with a simple rule (it’s been working for me so far) that will help me beat my inbox:

The inbox will be smaller each time I check my mail.

This rule has two desirable economic properties:

I’ll let you know how it’s going next week.

categories: /work, /smarts, /economics, /learning
posted on Tue, 06 Sep 2011 at 10:52 | permanent link | view comments

Letter to Senator Orrin Hatch on the Finance Reform Bill

Find your own senator here.

Mr. Hatch,

I am worried that Senator Dodd’s new finance bill (AYO10306.xml)[4] will harm small business investing by angel investors by requiring all investors to have a minimum amount of capital, requiring startups to undergo an SEC review, and subjecting angels to burdensome regulation.

I’m not an angel investor, but as a small business owner I’ve used them over the years to give necessary liquidity to my fledgling businesses. Small businesses represent a sizable piece of the US economy, as I’m sure you’re aware. Yes, many of them fail, but that risk is already borne by the investors who knew what they were getting into, and the economy at large is largely insulated from their failures.

Federal oversight will add no additional protection (unless the SEC has a magic crystal ball that will indicate whether a business will succeed or fail), and will hamper creative startups who had to really “shop” their idea until they found an investor who “got it” (e.g., Google, Microsoft, Apple all represent risky startups of this kind).

Please see:



USA Today

For the US economy to become strong again, we need the kind of innovation and jobs that come from small businesses. Please leave small business regulation alone—it’s worked remarkably well, even in these tough times.

I hope you’ll work with Senator Dodd in repairing this bill in these areas.

Scott Wiersdorf

categories: /economics, /government, /work
posted on Thu, 13 May 2010 at 07:58 | permanent link | view comments

Oh, so that’s how it works.

Another good one from Jessica Hagy.

categories: /learning, /funny, /comics, /smarts, /art, /wisdom, /work
posted on Wed, 02 Sep 2009 at 13:30 | permanent link | view comments

Politics and the English Language

A man may take to drink because he feels himself to be a failure, and then fail all the more completely because he drinks. It is rather the same thing that is happening to the English language. It becomes ugly and inaccurate because our thoughts are foolish, but the slovenliness of our language makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts. The point is that the process is reversible. Modern English, especially written English, is full of bad habits which spread by imitation and which can be avoided if one is willing to take the necessary trouble. If one gets rid of these habits one can think more clearly, and to think clearly is a necessary first step toward political regeneration: so that the fight against bad English is not frivolous and is not the exclusive concern of professional writers.

Anyone? Anyone? George Orwell, 1946 [link]. Read on:

As I have tried to show, modern writing at its worst does not consist in picking out words for the sake of their meaning and inventing images in order to make the meaning clearer. It consists in gumming together long strips of words which have already been set in order by someone else, and making the results presentable by sheer humbug. The attraction of this way of writing is that it is easy. It is easier — even quicker, once you have the habit — to say In my opinion it is not an unjustifiable assumption that than to say I think. If you use ready-made phrases, you not only don’t have to hunt about for the words; you also don’t have to bother with the rhythms of your sentences since these phrases are generally so arranged as to be more or less euphonious.

My own experience tells me that bad writing is always a result of one of two factors: 1) the author is uneducated and doesn’t know how to write or 2) the author is lazy.

The first problem can be solved with practice and hard work: anyone can learn to write well if they’ll care enough to read what they’ve written and change it until the words are right. Good elementary and secondary school teachers who understand and can teach this are as angels from heaven. The second problem is solved when the intended audience stops reading and goes elsewhere.

categories: /learning, /work, /art, /media, /words, /politics, /smarts
posted on Tue, 25 Aug 2009 at 10:23 | permanent link | view comments

Pizzeria Seven Twelve revisited

I think this is my fourth time visiting Pizzeria Seven Twelve. Let me summarize this place in as few words as possible:

Exquisite, subtle, unique.

Yet again I have found here new and delightful flavors and textures. Next time you’re thinking that you’re worth every bit as much as the good food you consume, do yourself a favor and go there (disclosure: I have no financial interest in P712—I only hope it survives the recession so that I can continue to eat there). P712 uses locally farmed ingredients, so you’re also helping out our local economy directly.

Today’s menu:

Pizza: Spec, soppressata, garlic, mozzarella; dessert: Buttermilk panna cotta (with cherries).

I’ve never tasted anything like it. I love this place.

Pizzeria Seven Twelve

categories: /work, /art, /food & dining
posted on Mon, 03 Aug 2009 at 14:40 | permanent link | view comments

Why my scooter is a Genuine

[Note: You can skip the next 6 paragraphs or so to the mildly amusing anecdote if you don’t like my seemingly endless diatribes. If you don’t like my mildly amusing anecdotes either, you can jump right to the final 4 or 5 paragraphs and enjoy my grandiose moralizing.]

When I bought my scooter last March, a lot of people asked about it. What kind is it? Is it fast? What kind of mileage do you get? Where’s the clutch? Can I ride it? (answers: “a Genuine Buddy”, “60-65 mph on a straightaway”, “90-ish mpg”, “it’s a continuous clutch—just twist and go”, and “no.”).

my office (a photograph of my erstwhile office)

But the best question has been, “Why did you buy that scooter and not some other kind?” I’ve mostly handwaved my way through that question with something like “I researched it for two years” yadda, yadda, yadda. It’s true that other people who have owned multiple scooters really like it, and that influenced me. There’s also the great support group and local service shop. But every major brand has its loyal following: these reasons are not completely unique to my scooter.


In reality, you’re fairly safe with any scooter from not-China: Kymco, Honda, Yamaha, Genuine, Sym, Lambretta, Bajaj, etc. These are all good brands that have been around for a long time. The Chinese scooters you see for sale on every other corner of major thoroughfares are what the cognoscenti call “disposable scooters.” They usually offer 90 day warranties, which I’m told you’re lucky to make it through without incident. If you go to any scooter shop that’s been around for more than a year or two, you’ll find dozens of these sub-$1000 disposables in the junkyard behind the shop and none for sale in the shop itself.

The owners and mechanics of good scooter shops will tell you what the Chinese scooters are made of: $%*#@! In layman’s terms, this means they’re made of inexpensive plastic parts and poor quality, brittle metals that are not designed to last long under heat or stress. They’re the scooter equivalent pressboard furniture: it may do just fine for you if you don’t move it far or often. And keep it out of the rain.

[I’m not bagging on China. I love China (sometimes). Most of the nice things I own were assembled in or have parts from China. But Chinese-made scooters are terrible. Ride a few of them and then ride something from the list above and you’ll see what I mean. Talk to scooter mechanics, ask around. There’s a reason they’re so cheap.]

Another reason I bought a Buddy was the 2 year warranty and roadside assistance (at no extra cost). I always thought roadside assistance was for sissies. I’d never needed it for my car (I somehow always managed to find a phone and call someone), but today I was proven wrong. I am proud to say that roadside assistance is awesome.

Story time: gather ‘round!

I’m cruising north on Geneva Road this afternoon. A dump truck in the left lane and an 18-wheeler ahead of me in the right lane. The truck in my lane is drifting occasionally into the shoulder and stirring up a lot of dust and gravel. My face is being pelted with little objects, so I start to slow a little and BAM and then rat-tat-tat-tat-tat over and over. Something is making a terrible noise in my rear wheel. I slow down and pull off the road. The rat-tat-tat stops, but I dismount to see what’s going on.

Protruding from the rear tire is about a half-inch of a rusty nail. Crud. Air is already hissing from the tire, so I pull the whole thing out. Three-freaking-inches of nail. It was nearly all the way in. Crud. I think I can make it another quarter mile—maybe.

I turn on the hazard blinkers and creep along the shoulder until I get to the next gas station. I can feel the rear tire is completely flat before I get there, so I walk it from the curb to the building and park it on the sidewalk in front of the store. A nice guy on a skateboard mentions a scooter shop nearby (which isn’t there anymore actually, but he didn’t know that, so I just thanked him). We chat a little bit. Then I remember a month or so ago getting my roadside assistance card in the mail:

Genuine Scooter Company roadside assistance

I call the number, and a pleasant voice asks, “Are you in a safe location?” Sweet. “You bet I am.”

In another minute she’s asked for my policy number and verified all of my information. She asks for my location and where I want it towed. I walk into the air-conditioned convenience store to get out of the 90°+ heat. The guy with the skateboard is charging his cell phone from an outlet behind the garbage can. “Things ok?” he asks.

“Yeah,” I say. “I remembered I have roadside assistance.”

“Awesome!” he says. Then he turns away to make a call now that he’s got some juice in his phone.

15 minutes later and the tow truck is there. I sign a paper saying that Larry’s Towing has my scooter. In 30 minutes the truck is on its way to The Scooter Lounge (“the best scooter shop in the universe!”). No charge for any of this—it’s all part of the package. For 2 years. It also covers car rental, but I don’t need that today (I’m hanging out at the gas station’s convenience store writing this until my wife picks me up).

until we meet again, Buddy

Back to quality

But this essay isn’t really about scooters and flat tires. It’s about quality. There are companies that care first about what they do, and there are companies that care first about making money. Some folks think that you can do the latter without doing the former, and I think in the short term they’re often right: you can fool some of the people some of the time.

While most people care about quality in something, whether it’s the TV shows they watch or the beer they drink, many people don’t seem to care about quality in most things. They’re going to buy the cheapest things over and over, rather than wait and save up for something better. It just doesn’t matter to them.

I don’t know if there’s any correlation between people who don’t care about using quality things and people who don’t care about creating quality things (or doing quality work) but I know that people who care about making quality almost universally appreciate it in the things they use themselves: their cars, homes, food, clothing, music, furniture, plumbing, computers, software, tools, and even scooters.

This is not to say that everything we have must be the best. We make do with many things and budget constraints often force us to temper what’s important to us. But the things that are important should be of adequate quality to give satisfaction.

It’s also important to keep in mind that tastes change over time, often for the better: what was satisfying to you at one time may not satisfy you later on (e.g., making dough by hand used to be great, but a Bosch makes making bread oh-so-much more fun). Having quality nearby makes making more quality enjoyable.

categories: /stories, /wisdom, /smarts, /tech, /words, /personal, /work, /art, /learning
posted on Wed, 22 Jul 2009 at 23:48 | permanent link | view comments

Goodbye QuickSilvεr, Hello Google Quick Search + Proxi + Growl!

I’ve been a fan of QuickSilvεr for years. It’s played a significant role in my life on OS X and I’ve gotten to know and love most of its quirks, crashes, and instabilities. But no more! I’ve found a new love and I’m kicking you out, you beautiful fiend.

My new love is a trio of programs: Google Quick Search Box, Proxi, and Growl. Everyone knows how cool Growl is and probably has it installed, but Google Quick Search and Proxi might be new to some folks. I’ll go through the changes I’ve made in moving from Quicksilvεr to my new trio.

Quicksilvεr is cool

If you’re a QS user like me, what attracted you to QS in the first place was the elegance and the economy. With as few keystrokes as you could want, you can accomplish common, useful things. And QS just makes your Mac feel really cool, even when it’s starting up:

But we need a little something new every once in a while.

Quicksilvεr’s slow demise

Even the hardiest fans of Quicksilvεr must admit that it’s suffered greatly in author Nicholas Jitkoff’s absence. It hasn’t had a significant update for months; the last stable release was at the end of 2007. It has some memory corruption problems that manifest themselves by the icons disappearing and the triggers stop working after about a week. I haven’t minded restarting QS, knowing that this is the price to pay for such useful software, but recently I started wondering if there wasn’t anything else out there yet.

I tried Google’s Quick Search Box for OS X last year (also written by Nicholas Jitkoff, who is now a Google employee), but it wasn’t ready for prime time. I’d also used Proxi off and on for trigger-related events that I couldn’t get to work in Quicksilvεr, but it also seemed to get wedged occasionally (note: Proxi still hangs occasionally after closing iTunes), remedied only by a kill or waiting a while.

But with the latest releases of GQSB ( and Proxi (1.5), I think I’ve found the perfect combination for what I used to do in QS.

If you haven’t yet, go get a copy of Google Quick Search Box (GQSB) and Proxi and install them. We’ll look at GQSB first.

Google Quick Search Box

Here’s how I set mine up. I’m an emacs user, so I can never have ^-Space for my launch trigger. If you don’t use emacs, you might enjoy a little more pinky room there. In any case, once I turned off Quicksilvεr, I had my old ⌥-Space keystroke freed up for GQSB. Let’s look at the first preference page:

Google Quick Search Box Basics

I turned off the ⌘+⌘ key trigger after an hour; I’d already found that I accidentally seem to hit that key combo a little too often.

Here’s the second pane:

Google Quick Search Box Searchable Items

I’m a bit of a privacy freak, so I turned off the Google searches. With these enabled, this little tool becomes a little too powerful for me. It’s kind of scary, but for the fearless, you’re going to flip out at how slick this is.

In the “Under the Hood” section, change these to suit your tastes. I’m sure I’ll continue tweaking these for a while (scroll down if you only see one option):

Google Quick Search Box Under the Hood

Now we’ve got a new search/launch tool installed! However, if you’re like me, you’ve added a lot of triggers and AppleScripts to QS and really miss the shortcuts. It’s important to bear in mind that GQSB is only a search tool and launcher; it doesn’t have triggers like Quicksilvεr does. For those we now introduce Proxi.


Proxi definitely took its cue from Quicksilvεr when it came to superfluous effects:

Proxi is obviously a self-serving bit of software for Griffin Technology, which hasn’t fully been able to engage the larger development community behind it. Fortunately, they’ve put enough useful general-purpose, non-Griffin functionality in it to make a truly useful tool.

Proxi is a really only a trigger manager at heart, but it does a decent job of it. Here we’re going to take an old trigger from our Quicksilvεr setup and do the same thing in Proxi. Here’s the trigger in Quicksilvεr:

This trigger launches an AppleScript, that launches Stick ‘Em Up, my favorite sticky program by Jim McGowan.

Now open the Proxi Editor by clicking the gear icon in your menu bar:

And make a new trigger:

I’m going to call it “run stick ‘em’ up”. When you select the new trigger in the left panel, on the far right panel you’ll see the settings for this new trigger. Here is where you assign the hotkeys. I’m using ⌘⌥^-S in this case:

Now we add a new task to this trigger. You can add multiple tasks to a trigger if you want:

One excellent thing Proxi can do is to run Applescripts inline. Here we make a launcher for an application:

That’s all! Just close the Proxi Editor and it’s running.

Proxi still suffers from some lag occasionally; I haven’t found any kind of consistent pattern to it, but by and large I haven’t had much trouble with the latest 1.5 update.


Between Proxi for the common hotkey shortcuts and Google Quick Search Box for the blazing fast hard-drive searches (and I use Growl to listen for iTunes track changes, just like Quicksilvεr used to do for me), I’m back in the saddle in under an hour.

categories: /tech, /tech/os x, /smarts, /learning, /work
posted on Tue, 07 Jul 2009 at 12:59 | permanent link | view comments

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